By Nik & Paul Machek, Sniper Precision Technologies

Coming from a 30-year background in engineering, we would like to share a series of technical articles on the fundamental aspects of measurement and engineering as they relate to karting. This article will deal with the basics of measurement in karting. Some future subjects will deal with various measuring tools, and metallurgy in relation to things like hardness, toughness and selection of materials for various karting components and accessories. 

By now you are probably asking, “What does any of this have to do with me?” The reason for this article is to help you, the karter, better understand the basis for all forms of measurement in karting. 

Who are we? Our names are Paul and Nik Machek. We run an engineering outfit called Sniper Precision Technologies. Sniper PT is the company that invented and manufacturers a wide range of laser alignment tools, including the Sniper Kart Systems, and others not related to karting. We have been in the engineering and measurement industry for over 30 years and feel that we are well qualified to write on these subjects.
Essentially the basis for all measurement is COMPARISON. No matter what form measurement takes, it is all about comparing one value to another. This is especially true in karting. Take caster as an example. Sure, you might be able to measure that the left hand side of your kart has 16 degrees of caster, but what are you going to do with that information? It becomes much more relevant when you compare it to the right hand side of the kart and find a difference of 2 degrees. Even if you find that with equal caster both sides your kart goes quicker with 17 degrees total caster instead of 15 degrees, how did you come to this conclusion – by comparison of lap times.  

On the subject of lap times, the stopwatch would have to be the most commonly used piece of measuring equipment in karting. Once again, you are only making a comparison. A particular lap time doesn't make you fast; it only makes you fast in relation to somebody else’s time. A good alignment setting for your kart is only fast in relation to a poor setting, and a good set-up is only a set of measurements away from a poor one. The only real way to find that good set-up is constant comparison – but try not to change more than one thing at once!

Tolerances are another part of measuring worth mentioning briefly. Everything must be produced to a tolerance. A tolerance is a size range acceptable for that particular item. For example, an average tape measure can measure within plus or minus 2mm (.0787”), whereas a standard vernier caliper can measure within plus or minus 0.1mm (.0039”). Micrometers get down to 0.01mm (.00039) and better. A good laser alignment tool for your kart should be able to measure toe and camber to plus or minus 0.25mm.

All engineering practices and claims are testable. With engineering you cannot make a false claim because it can always be proven wrong. Everything can be tested to be true or false. Take kart alignment tools as an example. When it comes to laser based alignment tools how can you check that are correct?
The best way for you to check your laser alignment tool would be to mount it on your kart the way it is designed and note the readings on each side. Then take the units off and mount them the opposite way around (swap sides). You would have to agree that if the units were correctly aligned, they would show an identical reading no matter which way around they are mounted. When we say identical, as with every measurement taken, this is still subject to a tolerance. An acceptable tolerance for this test would be a total of 0.5mm (plus or minus 0.25mm). That is, if you put the units on one way and they show 2mm toe out, then when put on the other way around they could show 1.5mm and still be within tolerance. Obviously the same applies for camber. Any more than a 0.5mm variation between the two mounting methods would indicate a unit which is out of tolerance. In this case you should contact the manufacturer.
All contents © copyright Sniper Americas 2010, all rights reserved.